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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

High Oil Prices Complicate Housing Recovery

Most economists think the rise in fuel costs will deter output growth rather than boost inflation. That is because higher energy costs leave less money available to spend on other goods. Given the slack in labor markets and capacity, higher fuel costs won’t translate much into higher wages or prices that would push up core inflation.
The oil-related drag on output, however, means fewer jobs. And faster job growth was a key support for housing in 2011. Every $10 rise in oil prices, if sustained, subtracts a one-half percentage point from gross domestic product growth. Every 1% increase in GDP translates into about one million new jobs. So, if oil prices don’t reverse, the drag on GDP growth could mean 500,000 fewer new jobs created over the course of 2011.
Of course, fewer jobs mean fewer new workers going out on their own. Household formation is the main determinant of housing demand. Curb formation and you curb home sales. That is why the housing outlook looks more precarious than it did just a few weeks ago.
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